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Mother Nature forces cancellation of Liberty football game

September 24, 2018

Two undefeated teams battled on the gridiron last Friday night at War Memorial Stadium in Liberty, but before a decision in the slugfest could be rendered, Mother Nature intervened and forced the cancellation of the game.

Liberty and Diboll, both 3-0, left the field at the orders of the officials after lightning strikes in the area were recorded.

Diboll held a 9-6 advantage with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter when the game was cancelled.

Both coaches chatted in the locker room while waiting for the weather to pass the stadium.

“We both knew that it was getting late and as much as we would have liked to finish the game, it wasn’t going to be feasible,” said Liberty head coach Chad Taylor.

The cancellation leaves both teams records intact but was still a disappointment.

“We probably won’t see another running back or team as good as they are until district and the same will be true for them,” Taylor said.

After driving down the field on their second possession — a 16-play clock killer — the Panthers lined up for a field goal. The first one was made by substitute kicker Eric Espinoza, but a flag for delay of game against the Panthers backed them up 5 yards. Espinoza rekicked a 34-yarder that sailed wide right.

The Panthers handed the ball over at the 20-yard line of Diboll, but the defense stiffened, and J.J. Slack intercepted the Lumberjacks quarterback and set the Panthers up at the Diboll 34-yard line.

Four plays later, Liberty quarterback Keegan Turner connected with Slack for a 20-yard TD pass and a Liberty 6-0 lead.

Then the craziness began.

On the extra-point attempt, the snap was mishandled, and the ball was kicked into the back of one of the Panther players and flew over the defense into the end zone. The ball, by rule, should have been dead, but a Lumberjack picked the ball up and ran it 100 yards the opposite direction for a 2-point touchback. Referees didn’t see the hit, but it was caught on game film.

“We just stood there because we thought it was a dead ball,” Taylor explained.

The next possession, Diboll took the ball down to the Liberty 8-yard line and more craziness occurred.

The quarterback ran around the end on the play and at the 4-yard line, he was hit and fumbled the ball to the 1-yard line where their running back advanced the ball into the end zone. The ball should have been ruled dead, but officials still ruled it a touchdown. With the point-after-touchdown, the Lumberjacks took a narrow 9-6 lead into the halftime.

In the third quarter, the Lumberjacks put together a short drive for only 11 yards, and Liberty’s first possession was a quick turnover on downs.

On Diboll’s next possession, they fumbled the ball and Liberty took over at the 42-yard line. That’s when the game was called.

“I felt our defense played pretty well shutting down their running back [D’aris McMillan] during the game and he’s been scoring on just about everybody else they’ve played,” Taylor said.

The defense swarmed and targeted McMillan most of the night limiting him to only 78 yards.

Some bright spots for the Panthers include the fourth game in a row without a single turnover.

“If we’re able to keep that up, we’ll be in every game we play in,” the coach said.

The Panthers hit the road next week and head to Splendora to play the Wildcats. Game time is 7 p.m.

dtaylor@hcnonline.com

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